Monday 23 March 2015

Bible Book:

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (v. 33)

Jeremiah 31:31-34 Monday 23 March 2015

Psalm: Psalm 128


In his prophetic work, Jeremiah consistently announces God'sjudgement on the Kingdom of Judah. Much of the book, in fact,highlights the imminent demise of the kingdom, which included theholy city of Jerusalem and the Temple. The first 29 chapters ofJeremiah are not prophecy in the sense of telling the future.Instead, the prophetic voice strives to explain why God's peopleare struggling amidst their anxious historical circumstances.

Judah was a small kingdom that sat between the greater powers ofAssyria to the north, Egypt to the south, and the rising Babylonianempire to the east. Having possession of that piece of land wasstrategic for the Babylonians in their efforts to make theirneighbours submit to their military might. The Babylonians invadedJudah around the year 597BC. Jeremiah proclaims that God will allowthe coming Babylonian onslaught to destroy Judah. In fact, onecannot help but see similarities in the prophetic statements ofJeremiah and Isaiah. Both proclaim God's judgement and justprosecution of God's people for their disobedience andunfaithfulness, and both promise a future restoration of God'speople.

According to Jeremiah, the people have strayed from the Covenant- the agreement God made with their forefathers at Sinai (see Jeremiah chapter 11). They have not kept thelaw. They are cautioned not to worship other gods (such as Jeremiah 25:6), which may indicate that theywere engaging in the worship of idols or of local pagan gods. In chapter 23, Jeremiah announces "woe" on thosewho have responsibility for shepherding the people (presumablyreligious and political leaders) but who have misled them intodisobedience. God will appoint a new shepherd over them; one whowill lay down himself for the sake of the sheep.

Chapters 30-33 hold promises of restoration that amidst the longdelineation of the people's unfaithfulness to God and to their ownidentity as God's people. Today's passage stands out because itdescribes God's faithfulness to a disobedient and unfaithfulpeople. The reference to covenant here is significant. A covenantis an agreement between at least two people or groups of peoplethat explains each party's responsibilities in the relationship.Unlike some familiar covenantal relationships today, such asmarriage, biblical covenants are often not between equals. Godinitiates covenants and fulfils God's responsibilities; the people,in turn, are to obey the law.

Torah or law in this context refers to more than a set of rules.Law connotes a way of life. The people will accept a new way oflife. They will not become faithful on their own or solely as aresult of the disruption they will experience. God will enable themto become faithful. The new Covenant that God makes with them willnot be written in law books that they can ignore, but upon theirhearts. The law will be a part of them, as close to them as theirown breath. It will shape their actions in the world. The newcovenant will become their way of life.

Christians might recognise the language of 'new covenant' fromHoly Communion liturgies. The words of institution spoken by Jesusat the Last Supper refer to the cup of wine as "the new covenant inmy blood" (Luke 22:20). The implication is that, throughhis death and resurrection, the new covenant promised in Jeremiahis fulfilled in Christ.

To Ponder

  • What does it mean for you to be faithful to God?
  • In what ways does God enable or empower our faithfulness?
  • In what sense does Jesus' suffering relate to the newcovenant?
Previous Page Sunday 22 March 2015
Next Page Tuesday 24 March 2015